On the potential of voluntary environmental programmes for the built environment: a critical analysis of LEED

Abstract

Voluntary environmental programmes (VEPs) are increasingly gaining traction as a means of improving the environmental performance of buildings and their occupants. These programmes are of interest because they incentivise developers, property owners and occupants to improve such performance voluntarily beyond what is required by governmental construction regulation. This article questions whether such programmes have the potential to affect the environmental and resource sustainability of the built environment to a significant extent. It first briefly reviews the extant literature on voluntary programmes as developed in policy sciences and governance studies. It then studies the performance of a leading, often lauded, VEP in the built environment: LEED. In spite of LEED’s impressive performance in absolute terms, this article concludes that LEED is a relatively poor performing VEP. This raises considerable questions about the potential of VEPs to improve sustainability in the built environment more generally.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Data from: http://www.citymayors.com/development/built_environment_usa.html.

  2. 2.

    Data from: http://www.urbannewsdigest.in/green-cities/.

References

  1. AASHE. (2013, December 17). Campus sustainability revolving loan funds database. http://www.aashe.org/resources/campus-sustainability-revolving-loan-funds/

  2. Alter, J. (2008). Slate on “decidedly dupable” LEED. Retrieved December 10, 2013, from http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/slate-on-decidedly-dupable-leed.html

  3. Bailey, I. (2008). Industry environmental agreements and climate policy. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 10(2), 153–173.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Baron, D. P., & Diermeier, D. (2007). Strategic activism and nonmarket strategy. Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, 16, 599–634.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Baughn, C., Bodie, N., & McIntosh, J. (2007). Corporate social and environmental responsibility in Asian countries and other geographical regions. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management, 14(4), 189–205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bischop, P., & Davis, G. (2002). Mapping public participation in policy choices. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 61(1), 14–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Blackman, A., Uribe, E., van Hoof, B., & Lyon, T. P. (2013). Voluntary environmental agreements in developing countries. Policy Sciences, 46(3), 335–385.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Borck, J., & Coglianese, C. (2009). Voluntary environmental programs. Annual Review of Environmental Resources, 34, 305–324.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Boyd, S. (2013). Financing and managing energy projects through revolving loan funds. Sustainability, 6(6), 345–352.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. BRE. (2013). BREEAM user manual for the BREEAM In-Use Online System V2.0. Watford: BRE Global.

  11. Brooks, M. (2008). Green leases and green buildings. Probate & Property, 14 (November/December), 23–26.

  12. Bulkeley, H., & Betsil, M. (2005). Rethinking sustainable cities. Environmental Politics, 14(1), 42–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. California Sustainability Alliance. (2009). Greening California’s leased office space. San Francisco: California Sustainability Alliance.

    Google Scholar 

  14. City of New York. (2005). Local Laws of the City of New York. No. 86. New York: City of New York.

  15. Cole, R., & Valdebenito, M. J. (2013). The importation of building environmental certification systems. BRI, 41(6), 662–676.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Cooper, I., & Symes, M. (2009). Sustainable urban development (Vol. 4). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Darnall, N., & Sides, S. (2008). Assessing the performance of voluntary environmental programs. Policy Studies Journal, 36(1), 95–117.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. de Leon, M. (2013). Constructing green. In R. Henn & A. J. Hoffman (Eds.), Constructing green (pp. 333–340). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. DGNB. (2009). German sustainable building certificate (2nd ed.). Stuttgart: German Sustainable Building Council.

    Google Scholar 

  20. DGNB. (2013). International application. Retrieved December 10, 2013, from http://www.dgnb-system.de/en/system/international/

  21. Dixon, T., Ennis-Reynolds, G., Roberts, C., & Sims, S. (2009). Is there a demand for sustainable offices? Journal of Property Research, 26(1), 61–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Dixon, T., Keeping, M., & Roberts, C. (2008). Facing the future. Journal of Property Investment & Finance, 26(1), 96–100.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Domask, J. (2003). From boycotts to global partnerships. In J. P. Doh & H. Teegen (Eds.), Globalisation and NGOs (pp. 157–186). Westport: Praeger Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Eichholtz, P., Kok, N., & Quigley, J. (2010). Doing well by doing good? American Economic Review, 100, 2492–2509.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Evans, M., & Davies, J. (1999). Understanding policy transfer: A multi-level, multi-disciplinary perspective. Public Administration, 77(2), 361–385.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Flynn, E. (2011). Green revolving funds in action. Cambridge, MA: Sustainable Endowments Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Foley, R. (2011). Green revolving funds in action. Cambridge, MA: Sustainable Endowments Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Fowler, K. M., & Rauch, E. M. (2006). Sustainable building rating systems. Richland: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

    Google Scholar 

  29. GBCA. (2012). A decade in green building. Sydney: Green Building Council of Australia.

    Google Scholar 

  30. GBCA. (2013). Valuing green. Sydney: Green Building Council of Australia.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Gifford, H. (2009). A better way to rate green buildings. Northeast Sun, 27(1), 19–27.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Givens, J., & Jorgenson, A. (2013). Individual environmental concern in the world polity. Social Science Research, 42(2), 418–431.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Green Billion. (2013). The billion green dollar challenge. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from http://greenbillion.org/

  34. Green Lease Library. (2013). Green lease library. Retrieved December 12, 2013, from http://www.greenleaselibrary.com/

  35. HKGBC. (2013). Certification. Retrieved December 11, 2013, from http://www.hkgbc.org.hk/eng/certification.aspx

  36. Hoffman, A. J., & Henn, R. (2009). Overcoming the social barriers to green building. Organization & Environment, 32(4), 390–419.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Holley, C., Gunningham, N., & Shearing, C. (2012). The new environmental governance. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Horvat, M., & Fazio, P. (2005). Comparative review of existing certification programs and performance assessment tools for residential buildings. Architectural Science Review, 48(1), 69–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. IEA. (2009). World energy outlook 2009. Paris: International Energy Agency/OECD.

    Google Scholar 

  40. IGBC. (2013). Indian Green Building Council. Retrieved December 25, 2013, from http://www.igbc.in/site/igbc/index.jsp

  41. Indvik, J., Foley, R., & Orlowski, M. (2013). Green revolving funds. Cambridge, MA: Sustainable Endowments Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Jones, L. (2008). Environmentally responsible design. Hoboken: John Wiley.

  43. Jordan, A., Wurzel, R., & Zito, A. (2005). The rise of new policy instruments in comparative perspective. Political Studies, 53(3), 477–496.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. King, A. A., & Lenox, M. J. (2000). Industry self-regulation without sanctions. Academy of Management Journal, 43(4), 698–716.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Knill, C. (2005). Introduction: Cross-national policy convergence: Concepts, approaches and explanatory factors. Journal of European Public Policy, 12(5), 764–774.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Kollmuss, A., & Agyman, J. (2002). Mind the gap. Environmental Education Research, 8(3), 239–260.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Lee, W. L., & Burnett, J. (2008). Benchmarking energy use assessment of HK-BEAM, BREEAM and LEED. Building and Environment Building and Environment, 43(11), 1882–1891.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Lenox, M. J., & Nash, J. (2003). Industry self-regulation and adverse selection. Bussiness Strategy and the Environment, 12(6), 343–356.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Lyon, T. P., & Maxwell, J. W. (2006). Greenwash. Ann Arbor: Ross School of Business.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Lyon, T. P., & Maxwell, J. W. (2007). Environmental public voluntary programs reconsidered. The Policy Studies Journal, 35(4), 723–750.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. May, P., & Koski, C. (2007). State environmental policies. Review of Policy Research, 24(1), 49–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. McManus, P. (2005). Vortex cities to sustainable cities. Sydney: UNSW Press.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Metzger, A. (2011). Five Successful Strategies for Greening Your School. Educational Facility Planner, 45(3), 20–23.

  54. Morgenstern, R., & Pizer, W. (2007). Reality check. Washington, DC: RFF Press.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Newsham, G., Mancini, S., & Birt, B. (2009). Do LEED-certified buildings save energy? Energy and Buildings, 41(8), 897–905.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. North Carolina General Assembly. (2008). Senate Bill 1597/S.L. 2008-22. Raleigh: North Carolina General Assembly.

  57. Nwabuzor, A. (2005). Corruption and development. Journal of Business Ethics, 59(1–2), 121–138.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Pérez-Lombard, L., Ortiz, J., González, R., & Maestre, I. R. (2009). A review of benchmarking, rating and labelling concepts within the framework of building energy certification schemes. Energy and Buildings, 41(3), 272.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Potoski, M., & Prakash, A. (2009). Voluntary programs. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Schindler, S. B. (2010). Following the Industry’s LEED. Florida Law Review, 62(2), 285–350.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Schmidt, T. M., & Fischlein, M. (2010). Rival private governance networks. Global Environmental Change, 20(3), 511–522.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Scofield, J. (2009). Do LEED-certified buildings save energy? Energy and Buildings, 41(12), 1386–1390.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Scofield, J. (2013). Efficacy of LEED-certification in reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for large New York City office buildings. Energy and Buildings, 67, 517–524.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Seville, C. (2011). How to cheat at LEED for homes. Retrieved December 10, 2013, from http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/green-building-curmudgeon/how-cheat-leed-homes

  65. Short, J., & Toffel, M. W. (2010). Making self-regulation more than merely symbolic. Administrative Science Quarterly, 55(2), 361–396.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Sustainable Endowment Institute. (2012). Greening the bottom line. Cambridge, MA: Sustainable Endowment Insitute.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Todd, J. A., Pyke, C., & Tufts, R. (2013). Implications of trends in LEED usage. BRI, 41(4), 384–400.

    Google Scholar 

  68. USA Today. (2013, June 13). In U.S. building industry, is it too easy to be green? Retrieved February 17, 2014, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/24/green-building-leed-certification/1650517/

  69. USGBC. (2010). Green building facts. Washington: US Green Building Council.

    Google Scholar 

  70. USGBC. (2013a). Incentives and financing. Retrieved December 12, 2013, from http://www.usgbc.org/advocacy/priorities/incentives-financing

  71. USGBC. (2013b, May 3). Infographic: LEED in the world. Retrieved December 10, 2013, from http://www.usgbc.org/articles/infographic-leed-world

  72. USGBC. (2013c). LEED for existing buildings. Washington, DC: U.S. Green Building Council.

    Google Scholar 

  73. USGBC. (2013d). USGBC history. Retrieved December 12, 2013, from http://www.usgbc.org/about/history

  74. van der Heijden, J. (2014). Governance for urban sustainability and resilience. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Walker, H., & Phillips, W. (2009). Sustainable procurement. International Journal of Procurement Management, 2(1), 41–61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  76. WGBC. (2013). The business case for green building. Toronto: World Green Building Council.

    Google Scholar 

  77. Wurzel, R., Zito, A., & Jordan, A. (2013). Environmental governance in Europe. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study research. Design and methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  79. Yudelson, J., & Meyer, U. (2013). The world’s greenest buildings. Abingdon: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeroen van der Heijden.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

van der Heijden, J. On the potential of voluntary environmental programmes for the built environment: a critical analysis of LEED. J Hous and the Built Environ 30, 553–567 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10901-014-9428-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • Building environmental assessment
  • Environmental governance
  • LEED
  • Sustainable construction
  • Voluntary environmental programme